Posts Tagged ‘Otherworld’

xnscifiOver 4 years ago, I wrote an essay that caused me to seriously think about writing something like Johnny Came Home.

At the time, I was writing Øtherworld, a sci-fi tale with fantasy overtones. I was having a hard time finishing it, so I wrote this essay to sharpen my focus a bit. The idea was to define my over-all aim as what fellow author JC Lamont terms a “literary apologist.” I managed to do that, but the essay is more noteworthy for the brainstorming session it contains. This updated version of Faith-Based Sci-Fi As Exploratory Apologetic continues in that tradition.

Enjoy!

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Now by all accounts science fiction is a bit of a hard sell for the Christian book market. The reason for this is bound up in our eschatology, our beliefs about the End of All Things. End Times views within Christendom come a few clearly defined and argued categories. Most folks are familiar with the Darbyist view [pretribulational dispensationalist Rapturists] on which Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind series was based. If Christendom has an established sci-fi market, it is predominantly for this specific flavor of End Times fiction. And who can blame us? It’s exciting stuff. A small, desperate, but resolute band of believers beleaguered by the all-powerful AntiChrist, a megalomaniacal dictator in control of a fascist New World Order. The story has a powerful opening hook: the sudden disappearance of every Bible-believing Christian on the planet and climaxes in the bona fide War to End All Wars, the Armageddon, and the Triumphant Return of Christ. The setting and the Bible’s mention of martyrs and divine judgments make any half-decent effort a gripping read.

I digress.

If the selective mass market offerings of Christian book chains are any indication, this is the only sort of exploratory apologetic we have. I remember browsing the local Christian bookstores, just bored out of my mind. With few exceptions, I was looking an endless sea of romance novels, marketed at women. I’m a guy, so I’m into science fiction, fantasy and action thrillers. I remember thinking, “Why should I be forced to get the stuff I actually enjoy reading from secular bookstores in novels written from a non- or even anti-Christian worldview?”

What about the stuff of traditional sci-fi? What about alien worlds? Aliens? Space travel? Artificial Intelligence? Where was the Christian exploration of these subjects? In essence, why couldn’t I read “Do Android Prayers Reach the Ears of God?” [in the tradition of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner]?

Let me tell you some specific things I’d like to see addressed: (more…)

Some of you know that Johnny Came Home was born of NaNoWriMo. Some of you don’t. Some of you don’t even know what NaNoWriMo is!

NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writer’s Month. It takes place every November. The idea was founded in roughly 1999, but really took off in 2001. The goal is to write a 175 page (50,000 word) novel by midnight November 30th.

I was in a writing slump at the time, to say the least. In all honesty, I’d been chronically trying to finish a still as-yet-unfinished sci-fi novel called Øtherwørld, a seat-of-your-pants adventure involving swords, dragons, cursed kingdoms, robots and aliens. I’ll finish it someday, God willing.

In any case, I was burned out and this NaNoWriMo concept crossed my path.

What happened? I wrote Johnny Came Home in a month, which sounds pretty goood at first. Don’t get me wrong; I was elated! What a sense of accomplishment. A whole novel in just 30 days. I’d just edit it a bit, plug in the plot holes and publish it, right?

Right. In a comment on Facebook, Mike Duran correctly in notes that “spewing out a novel in a month is the last discipline [a writer] needs to learn.” What he’s refering to is the fact that when you finally get a moment to read what you’ve written over that rushed 30 days, well… It’s taken me most of a year to edit out the plot holes and bad ideas. I ended up changing part of the plot entirely [one plot hole was more like a black hole and required a major re-write of half the book].

My characters also had to be fleshed out. I’d purposely written the first few chapters with a heavy emphasis on description, but I wasn’t seeing a well-defined character development arc for any of the players in my book. So I sat down, wrote out basic character sheets for them and went over their wants, needs, motivations, family lives, loves, fears, prejudices and tried to make sure they were reacting the way a real person might in those circumstances. Yes, my charcaters are something straight out of a comic book, but if the Spider-Man franchise taught us anything, it’s that character development and interaction are the sticking points of your story – not just action-packed battles and big explosions.

The ending was my biggest problem. I slapped on an ending just to beat the deadline. It wasn’t the ending I wanted. It was pretty anticlimactic. It was bad. I really had to do a lot of work to gear Johnny for the ending I really wanted.

Despite my plans to publish in 2011, I still find myself tweaking it here and there. So I caution folks that NaNoWriMo will not necessarily produce for them a finished novel. Though I admit it gave me the nucleus of something I could definitely work with.

Was it useful? Sure. NaNoWriMo was a great brainstrorming exercise. I’ll probably never, NEVER do it again, but it was brilliant for generating ideas and creativity. Yet the most useful lesson I gleaned from NaNoWriMo is that you literally can spend just an hour a day writing and make some marvelous progress. I don’t have to get all obsessed like Victor von Frankenstein over his latest project. I can simply manage and budget my time, so that I have time to write and time for the things that matter, yes, more than writing, like my family.

Speaking of which, my hour’s up.

Keep writing!

-Rev Tony Breeden